Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: No, liberalization will not kill Canadian whisky

In a recent op-ed for the Toronto Star, the President and CEO of the Association of Canadian Distillers argued that the Ontario government’s plan to slightly liberalize the sale of alcohol in the province would “kill” Canadian whisky companies.

The problem, says Jan Westcott, is that selling beer and wine in grocery stores would give these products an unfair advantage over spirits. This unfair advantage means fewer people would drink hard alcohol.

He comes to this conclusion because “we have seen it happen in Quebec” when it started allowing the sale of booze outside of the government monopoly.

Well, not exactly.

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La Presse

La Presse: Laissez Starbucks vendre de l’alcool

Peter Sergakis ne croit pas que Starbucks devrait avoir le droit de vendre de l’alcool. Le président de l’Union des tenanciers de bars du Québec affirme en outre qu’« on a assez de bars comme ça au Québec. » Voilà un argument plutôt commode, sachant que M. Sergakis contrôle une grande part du marché, avec plus de 40 bars sur l’île de Montréal.

Starbucks vend déjà de la bière et du vin dans quelques villes américaines et souhaite maintenant s’essayer au Canada. Selon leur porte-parole, Montréal s’avère une des principales cibles.

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Postmedia

Montreal Gazette: Montreal bars should fight outdated regulations, not possible competitors

Peter Sergakis doesn’t think Starbucks should have the right to sell alcohol. As the president of the Union of Bar Owners of Quebec, he saysthat “we have enough bars like that in Quebec.” It’s a convenient argument given that he owns much of that market himself, about 40 drinking establishments on the island of Montreal.

Starbucks started selling beer and wine in select American locations, and they now want to bring the pilot project to Canada. According to their spokeswoman, Montreal is a prime target.

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C2C Journal

C2C: A new quiet revolution in Quebec?

For two decades Quebecers have been electing governments that promise to put the province’s fiscal house in order and nurture a stronger market economy. Post-election, however, the political will to implement these reforms almost invariably succumbs to fierce public protests. It happened to former Liberal Premier Jean Charest and his bold plan to “re-engineer” the state in 2003, and before him to former Parti Québécois Premier Lucien Bouchard. Bouchard tried again as a private citizen in 2005 with his “pour un Québec lucide” manifesto. It so antagonized the bureaucracy, unions and the left that it inspired the creation of a new extreme left-wing nationalist party – Québec Solidaire – that now has three seats in the National Assembly.

As a result of this prolonged paralysis of political will and policy reform, Quebec now has by far the largest provincial debt in Canada. It is also one of the highest-taxed jurisdictions in North America and a laggard on just about every measure of economic performance. But there is some evidence that Quebec’s stubbornly statist political culture has reached a tipping point. Ten months ago Premier Philippe Couillard’s Liberal party won a majority government on familiar promises of fiscal responsibility and market-led economic growth. Today, unlike many of its predecessors, the government’s political will seems to be holding up, even after last summer’s violent trashing of Montreal City Hall by unionized city firefighters protesting provincial pension reforms, while unionized city police stood by and did nothing.

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Postmedia

National Post: Overthrowing our booze overlords

During the aging process of any good distilled alcohol, something strange happens. The inebriating substance evaporates and leaves the barrel through pores in the wood. In most cases, around 2% of it escapes in this manner. The craftsmen who produced this product call it “the angels’ share” — it’s their gift to the heavens above, and through this gift they are rewarded with a smoother and better quality liquid.

With most of Canada’s monopolized booze retailers, a similarly strange process occurs with the money in our wallets — though the end result is less romantic and much harder to swallow.

Monopolies, both public and private, are taking advantage of their market control at the expense of customers. They’re helped by a clutch of archaic laws that desperately need revising. Thankfully, some Canadians are waking up to the smell of the bad brew.

Several lawsuits against our alcoholic overlords now have the potential to significantly change how monopolies function, greatly benefiting consumers in the process. These suits are bringing us one step closer to the distant dream of liberalized liquor.

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Postmedia

National Post: Think the Beer Store is bad? Check out the SAQ

In a recent article published in the National Post, British ex-pat Daniel Rouse proclaimed that Ontario’s “Beer Store is worse than any of my nightmares.” Thank goodness he hasn’t travelled to Quebec! While many Ontarians, or visitors to that province, may assume that it couldn’t get any worse, as a Quebecer, let me assure you: It can.

Rouse’s article does make a valid point: The Beer Store is a cartel of three multinational companies controlling a monopoly that stifles domestic competitors, with a stamp of approval from the government, even though the Beer Store provides no direct financial benefit to Ontario (outside of regular taxation, of course). It reeks of the archaic bureaucratic roadblocks from Canada’s prohibitionist past. Service stinks  and even with the recently uncovered sweetheart deal with the LCBO, selection is poor and craft beers are largely absent.

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Postmedia

Montreal Gazette: It’s time to talk about ending the SAQ’s monopoly

Last week, the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ) told Quebec’s ongoing program review committee that the SAQ’s monopoly needs to end. They’re pushing for a slow reform though partial privatization. It’s about time the government listened.

According to a recent Leger poll, 42 per cent of Quebecers would support the privatization of the Société des alcools du Québec. The government has not budged on the issue, purely out of self-interest.

As Quebec’s only buyer and vendor of most alcoholic products, the Crown corporation brings in over a billion dollars to the province annually, about 1 per cent of its revenue. It’s the government’s most profitable venture, with margins over 48 per cent. As a comparison, Liquor Stores N.A. — a company that owns liquor stores in Canada and the U.S. — only had a profit margin of 1.9 per cent.

Consumers are getting ripped off.

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Postmedia

Montreal Gazette: Quebec Liberal youth wing has good advice for Couillard

After Jean Charest promised and failed to re-engineer the Quebec state in 2003, many lost hope that the Quebec Liberal Party could deliver a smaller, smarter government. And yet, those around and behind Premier Philippe Couillard today in 2014 are pushing for just that.

This past weekend, the Quebec Liberal youth wing met in Lennoxville for its annual policy convention. Known for proposing far-reaching changes, the young Liberals form the vanguard of those advocating reform to Quebec’s nanny state.

The youth wing supports privatizing the Société des alcools du Québec, abolishing Quebec’s anachronistic CEGEP system and accommodating a larger role for private health care.

It has also suggested raising the speed limits on Quebec’s roads, debated lowering income taxes (to be followed by a rise in sales tax) and encouraged the exploration of our natural resources.

What’s more, it has proposed prioritizing the most job-skills-qualified immigrants over those who meet language requirements, a move that would help the economy and relieve our welfare system. Perhaps most significantly, it has proposed ending the bureaucratic welfare system by replacing it with a simpler guaranteed minimum income.

These bold, refreshing proposals are exactly what Quebec needs to get back on track. Not only would they aid the consumer, but they would also revamp the economy and simplify the citizen’s relationship to government. Students would especially benefit, being able to bypass a junior-college degree of little value in the rest of North America, thus allowing for a greater focus at the CEGEP level on job training.

Call it Re-engineering 2.0.

Premier Couillard has distanced himself from some of the proposals. That’s fine, but it does not mean that some of these changes shouldn’t come during his mandate.

Couillard is realistic. He understands it is necessary to move slowly on big changes. His current focus is on balancing the budget by cutting spending, but it is plausible that larger reforms are in the cards. After all, young Liberals make up one-third of the party’s delegates at full-party conventions. At minimum, the youth wing’s ideas will help sway the debate toward reform.

The next four years are optimal timing for Couillard to push for a re-engineered Quebec state — a luxury that was unavailable to Charest. When the latter took office, unions were strong and the province had not yet suffered through the recession.

Today, however, thanks to the Charbonneau Commission, Quebecers are aware of widespread union and other corruption and they still lack confidence in the economy. It’s hard to keeping looking at the SAQ and Hydro-Québec as vital state institutions — as they once were — when the cost of alcohol across the border is half of what it is here, and when Hydro keeps charging more for electricity. What would a little competition hurt?

The timing for Couillard is also ideal because his stars align with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume. Both have taken on municipal pension-plan reform, and stood solidly by Couillard and his new government’s Bill 3, even as they take on the unions. Coderre, a former Liberal member of Parliament, has surprised many with his defence of the taxpayer in everything from municipal projects to union scare tactics. There is also no question that Couillard’s relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper is much healthier and ideologically congruent when compared with that of his predecessor.

In the present environment, Couillard has the opportunity to take the province on a path that would benefit all Quebecers. As a politician who understands the limitations facing his government, we should expect any reforms to be advanced slowly. But with enough public backing, Quebec may see better days ahead.

Please, Mr. Premier, listen to the young Liberals.

Tom Kott is CEO of Prince Arthur Herald, a bilingual online Montreal student news organization.

Twitter: TomK0tt

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Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: Bring Back Dominion Day

While today it is only a vestige cited in the history books, Canada is still officially  a “Dominion”. As lore has it,Dominion was chosen for our nation after Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, a Father of Confederation, read it in the Bible and found it fitting: “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” (Psalm 72:8).

Sir John A. Macdonald – always loyal to the Crown – preferred the Kingdom of Canada, but London believed it might annoy the Americans. Macdonald also mused over other names: Province, Dependency, Colony, and Vice-Royalty – but none caught on.

In the end, Dominion won out. It was the British Prime Minister Lord Derby who made it official on the advice of Lord Carnarvon in 1866 (side note: the Carnarvons were, and still are, the residents of Highclere Castle, otherwise known as Downton Abbey. Our first prime minister spent some time at the castle during his stay in London). In 1879, the already celebrated Dominion Day became an official holiday, marking the birth of the nation on July 1.

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The Hustings

The Hustings: Sovereignty’s new road-Bloc

The Bloc Québécois has elected a new leader named Mario Beaulieu, a development which shouldn’t go undiscussed in the Canadian media. Now before I start, I must disclose my bias: Mr Beaulieu isn’t a fan of me, nor I of him. As president of the fundamentalist Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Beaulieu released a report on “Francophobia” in the media, targeting among others myself and Jackson Doughart as Quebec-bashers based on articles that appeared in the Prince Arthur Herald. In reality, the report was a typo-filled manifesto against any Canadian journalist who dared to criticize Quebec in any manner. Yet the childishness of the SSJB’s shenanigans is what we can expect from the Bloc in the future, as Beaulieu takes the party in a more radical direction.

And it won’t just be federalists who will be alienated by the new leader. The Bloc’s base of Quebec separatists won’t be lured back by Beaulieu’s new direction, especially after shifting their loyalties in 2011. In his first speech as leader, he made remarks that were associated with the rhetoric of the FLQ, the group responsible for bombings in Quebec in the 1960s and the murder and kidnapping of government officials in 1970. If furthering the separatist cause is truly in Beaulieu’s interest, linking himself to the darkest periods in Quebec history is probably not the way to do it.

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